Zine Union Catalog: proposal by Jenna Freedman


1 Leave a comment on paragraph 1 0 For several years, zine librarians across North America have been collaborating to build a union catalog for zines. A “union catalog” is a resource where libraries can share cataloging and holdings information, the prime example being WorldCat, which has thousands of member libraries. A union catalog allows librarians to copy catalog records and facilitates lending across libraries. For researchers, the primary benefit is being able to discover zine holdings by searching a single catalog. The zine union catalog (ZUC) would serve people working in English, Ethnic Studies, Gender and Women’s Studies, Media Studies, History, Library and Information Science, Popular Culture, Psychology, Rhetoric, Sociology, and other fields. Here are the key points in executive summary bullets:

  • 2 Leave a comment on paragraph 2 0
  • A cross­repository resource for zine research, providing access to metadata about as many zines, and in as many ways (linked open data, links to digital content, etc.) as possible.
  • A collaborative platform for cataloging zines and their creators, by persons both within and external to the library profession.
  • A hub for zine research, where partners can seek inspiration and collaboration.
  • A promotional and educational resource for the zine genre.
  • A tool capable of supporting projects to incorporate digitized (and born digital) zine (and zine­related) material into other platforms such as the Digital Public Library of America (DPLA).

3 Leave a comment on paragraph 3 0 I propose building this catalog in the open source tool Collective Access. Collective Access (CA), unlike a similar tool Omeka, allows core fields (name, geographic location, historical event or era, etc.) to be tied to their own unique records (or tables), rather functioning solely as linkable fields, which are thereby vulnerable to degradation. CA is developed in New York City and has an active user group here. Another advantage to using CA is that the Queer Zine Archive Project (QZAP) is built in it, so we would have a place to start from. Further, I am closely connected to the QZAP developers, as well as the lead on another CA project LaMama Archives Digital Collections, so I would have easy access to people who have already made mistakes and solved problems who would share their experiences with us.

4 Leave a comment on paragraph 4 0 This catalog can be started with datasets from disparate zine libraries and zine library collections including ABC No Rio, Barnard College, Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, Denver Zine Library, QZAP, and possibly others. The project benefits from having a close-knit, committed, and warm community of zine librarians, in which I am deeply embedded. Members of the project team will benefit from working with an existing client for the project, a client comprised of brilliant, creative people from around the country with a range of skills, who are accustomed to working within a social justice framework and in an atmosphere of hospitality.

5 Leave a comment on paragraph 5 0 ZUC differs from many digital humanities archives projects in that rather than surfacing and providing access to unique materials, its holdings are multiples, and the emphasis is on cooperation between libraries to provide physical, as well as digital access to materials. Scholars from many humanities, as well as social sciences fields, will enjoy the fruits of our labor.

6 Leave a comment on paragraph 6 0  

Why It Matters

7 Leave a comment on paragraph 7 0 Zines are self-produced and self-published literature that often feature counter­cultural, political, and artistic content. They are produced in small runs, and are often distributed directly by the author or through “distros” (i.e., specialized distributors of alternative publications). As such, zines provide a first­hand, personal, and documentary account of movements in social, political, and art history and provide evidence of knowledge production and dissemination within alternative communities. They are used by humanities scholars as primary source documents on a variety of topics, and are regarded as a critical record of third wave feminism and the riot grrrl movement, punk rock and the punk aesthetic, popular culture and fandom, and local history in urban centers.

8 Leave a comment on paragraph 8 0 Because zines exist in a counter­cultural space, historically they have been collected and circulated by independent zine libraries. Over the last fifteen years, public libraries, special collections, and academic research libraries have begun collecting zines as scholarly resources and as part of leisure reading collections. This hybrid environment of zine collections translates into dispersed, erratic mechanisms for access. Zine descriptions and metadata, and thus discovery of zines, is scattered across library catalogs, archival finding aids, standalone databases, spreadsheets, and online platforms such as LibraryThing. This situation poses impediments to finding and using zines in aggregate for research, teaching, and learning in the humanities, but the Zine Union Catalog (ZUC) seeks to aggregate metadata from these disparate sources.

9 Leave a comment on paragraph 9 0  


10 Leave a comment on paragraph 10 0 The end product of this project is a searchable catalog, to which libraries can upload their holdings. If we are ambitious, further goals are to automate the upload process. We will also create an API so that zine librarians and researchers can download the data and build on what we have done. The class will benefit from being able to start, not from scratch, but from work that has already been established by a motivated user group.

11 Leave a comment on paragraph 11 0 Sharing what we learn about how to crosswalk disparate datasets will be of value to other digital humanists, so providing detailed, yet readable documentation will be an essential part of this project. That information will go on the website that houses the catalog. That website could be something new or it could be on the zinelibraries.info site.

12 Leave a comment on paragraph 12 0 Data will be managed using GitHub, in an already existing repository, or a new one. The final ZUC will be presented at the CUNY Graduate Center on May 17.

13 Leave a comment on paragraph 13 0  

Additional Possibilities

14 Leave a comment on paragraph 14 0 If members are interested, it is likely we could get a paper on the project published in a peer reviewed library and information science journal (preferably Open Access!).

15 Leave a comment on paragraph 15 0 Before Trump’s ascension, I would have called this an eminently fundable project. If the Knight Foundation or Mellon’s funding remains stable, I am confident that we could advance the prototype we build in class. This union catalog is unique in that it pulls bibliographic data from disparate sources. Library funding agencies seem interested in developing cooperative projects like this one, as well as on Linked Open Data projects, which I hope will be the next step for the ZUC.


16 Leave a comment on paragraph 16 0 I see this as something that will be tweaked or even trashed once the team is assembled and a project manager designated, but here is a sketch.

17 Leave a comment on paragraph 17 0 February 22

18 Leave a comment on paragraph 18 0 Project initiation: Assign roles, discuss project concerns and ideas, remap this timeline, and establish workflows.

19 Leave a comment on paragraph 19 0 March 1

20 Leave a comment on paragraph 20 0 Discuss functional requirements and assign tasks.

21 Leave a comment on paragraph 21 0 March 8

22 Leave a comment on paragraph 22 0 Install Collective Access (QZAP profile) on a server (developer with a second/pair programmer)

23 Leave a comment on paragraph 23 0 Get familiar with CA tools and fora for each role. 

24 Leave a comment on paragraph 24 0 March 15

25 Leave a comment on paragraph 25 0 Each team member presents a dataset. Discuss attributes to determine another dataset to add, transforming and ingesting data into the ZUC.

26 Leave a comment on paragraph 26 0 Designer leads a discussion on interface issues.

27 Leave a comment on paragraph 27 0 March 22

28 Leave a comment on paragraph 28 0 Work on individual library holdings, de-duping records, and normalizing entities and tracking their relationship with zines. Designer presents wireframes.

29 Leave a comment on paragraph 29 0 March 29

30 Leave a comment on paragraph 30 0 Work on individual library holdings, de-duping records, and normalizing entities and tracking their relationship with zines.

31 Leave a comment on paragraph 31 0 April 5

32 Leave a comment on paragraph 32 0 Work on individual library holdings, de-duping records, and normalizing entities and tracking their relationship with zines. Preview of user interface. 

33 Leave a comment on paragraph 33 0 April 12 – no class

34 Leave a comment on paragraph 34 0 April 19

35 Leave a comment on paragraph 35 0 Alpha launch: status report and attempt at bringing in records from other sources. Reassess.

36 Leave a comment on paragraph 36 0 April 26

37 Leave a comment on paragraph 37 0 Address issues discovered in alpha launch. Final design review.

38 Leave a comment on paragraph 38 0 May 3

39 Leave a comment on paragraph 39 0 Beta test or continue to address issues from alpha launch.

40 Leave a comment on paragraph 40 0 May 10 – dress rehearsal

41 Leave a comment on paragraph 41 0 Bug fixes

42 Leave a comment on paragraph 42 0 May 17 – presentation

43 Leave a comment on paragraph 43 0 May 24

44 Leave a comment on paragraph 44 0  


45 Leave a comment on paragraph 45 0 Project Manager – Leads the project and keeps it on track. Requires at least surface knowledge of coding, design, user experience, metadata, and library cataloging. This person will work with the team to establish and stick to a timeline, adapting it as needed. Personal strengths should include big picture thinking, collaborative leadership, an ability to stay focused and not get lost in details, and a cool head.

46 Leave a comment on paragraph 46 0 Lead Developer – Primary responsibility for technology planning and implementation. The developer should have a critical approach to technology, as well as skills in MySQL, PHP, XML, and jQuery. They should be able to communicate technical jargon to the client and take user needs seriously. Personal strengths should include being like the GC Digital Fellows: supportive, patient, and empathetic.

47 Leave a comment on paragraph 47 0 Client (Product Owner) – Keeps the project grounded in user needs, prevents it from becoming what seems cool or doable to the development team. The client has knowledge of zine libraries around the world, their needs and strengths. They will also be responsible for keeping the project ethical and responsible, according to the Zine Librarians Code of Ethics. Personal strengths include being able to flip between the client role and that of a team member, as they will need to contribute to each aspect of the project. They will need to be able to articulate user needs in a way that makes sense to each member of the team.

48 Leave a comment on paragraph 48 0 Lead Designer – Responsible for the look and feel of the catalog and architecture of the website. They will also need to have some PHP, XML, and CSS chops. Personal strengths should include creativity but also pragmatism—the need to balance the ultimate vision with what’s possible in the short term.

49 Leave a comment on paragraph 49 0 Lead Metadata Specialist – Takes charge of schema and authorities. This person should have knowledge of current and developing library cataloging standards and the principles of linked open data and BIBFRAME. Personal strengths include tight attention to detail.

50 Leave a comment on paragraph 50 0 Outreach Coordinator and Documentarian – Deals with internal and external communication: help text, shared working notes, social media, and grantwriting. This person should be organized and precise with their language. Personal strengths include creativity, flexibility, and excellent writing skills.


51 Leave a comment on paragraph 51 0 Have

52 Leave a comment on paragraph 52 0 ($20/month, for which the Zine Union Catalog working group has currently raised $140, but I’d just as soon not use this right now if possible)

53 Leave a comment on paragraph 53 0 Digital fellows and GC workshops

54 Leave a comment on paragraph 54 0 Need

55 Leave a comment on paragraph 55 0 CUNY server space?

56 Leave a comment on paragraph 56 0 PHP, XML, MySQL, CSS, and jQuery skills


57 Leave a comment on paragraph 57 0 Functional Requirements Spreadsheet

58 Leave a comment on paragraph 58 0 Knight Prototype Grant Proposal –             In 2016 the Zine Libraries Zine Union Catalog working group was a finalist for this grant. We were not successful because what we were asking for was a planning grant, rather than funding to build a prototype, and thus were out of scope.

59 Leave a comment on paragraph 59 0 NEH HCRR Grant Proposal – In 2016 the Zine Libraries Zine Union Catalog wrote this grant, but the hosting institution pulled it due to a local restructuring. Thanks, University of Texas.

60 Leave a comment on paragraph 60 0 Scholar support letters from Kate Eichhorn, New School; Frank Farmer, University of Kansas, and Aiesha Turman, St. Joseph High School and Ph.D. Candidate Union Institute and University.

61 Leave a comment on paragraph 61 0 Zine Union Catalog working group notes

62 Leave a comment on paragraph 62 0 Zine Union Catalog notes on ZineLibraries.info

63 Leave a comment on paragraph 63 0 xZINECOREx GitHub repository – includes workflows and datasets

64 Leave a comment on paragraph 64 0 xZINECOREx zine (pdf) by Milo Miller

65 Leave a comment on paragraph 65 0 [1] Some of the language in this proposal is from grants that I co-wrote with others. I was the lead writer on a Knight grant and a contributor to an NEH grant. I’m just saying that so it’s clear that the proposal is the result of a collaborative effort. Since I didn’t write a proposal for my final project, I don’t feel that it’s on me to present 100% original content here. I hope that’s all right!

This entry was posted in spring17, Student Post, Uncategorized, ZUC and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Both comments and trackbacks are currently closed.

One Comment

  1. Posted February 8, 2017 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    This proposal has come a long way since your first proposal, Jenna, and in a very good way. I will withhold my comments until after class today. However, I would challenge the group to look at other kinds of projects that create similar types of resources (the Modernist Journal Project, for example) to think about potential features, use cases, and pitfalls. You might want to talk a little bit about the collections you’re working with in your proposal and in your presentation tonight–as the materials may offer some of your class colleagues a personal stake in the project. How well do you know the people around the table? Are there collections that you could start with, or that you could point people to look at an existing list of potential zines, that may make working on your project personally and academically relevant? Another thing to consider as you move ahead is what you think the “workflow” might be from 2 perspectives: 1.) adding and curating records and 2.) information retrieval and use. Perhaps in conversation with folks tonight, you could ask them for some feedback about sites/tools/resources they use regularly and what makes the workflow (think the library catalogue, amazon, google) either appealing or frustrating. Perhaps tonight you can also use people in the class to help brainstorm where there are workshops, tutorials, or other ways of learning skills that no one around the table has at this moment.

    Looking forward to hearing more about the conversation and to reading other class colleagues comments here over the coming week.

Additional comments powered byBackType

  • Archives

  • Welcome to Digital Praxis 2016-2017

    Encouraging students think about the impact advancements in digital technology have on the future of scholarship from the moment they enter the Graduate Center, the Digital Praxis Seminar is a year-long sequence of two three-credit courses that familiarize students with a variety of digital tools and methods through lectures offered by high-profile scholars and technologists, hands-on workshops, and collaborative projects. Students enrolled in the two-course sequence will complete their first year at the GC having been introduced to a broad range of ways to critically evaluate and incorporate digital technologies in their academic research and teaching. In addition, they will have explored a particular area of digital scholarship and/or pedagogy of interest to them, produced a digital project in collaboration with fellow students, and established a digital portfolio that can be used to display their work. The two connected three-credit courses will be offered during the Fall and Spring semesters as MALS classes for master’s students and Interdisciplinary Studies courses for doctoral students.

    The syllabus for the course can be found at cuny.is/dps17.

  • Categories

Skip to toolbar